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Read about the latest research from Psychological Science:

Task Relevance Induces Momentary Changes in the Functional Visual Field During Reading

Johanna K. Kaakinen and Jukka Hyönä

Research has shown that people zoom in on task-relevant information in text. The authors examined whether a person’s functional visual field changes as a function of task relevance by tracking participants’ eye movements as they read a large piece of text about different countries. Before reading, participants were instructed to imagine they were going to move to one of the countries described in the text. A display-change paradigm was used to examine the functional visual field during reading of task-relevant and task-irrelevant sentences. The results indicate that the size of the functional visual field is flexible and depends on momentary task demands.

Please Tap the Shape, Anywhere You Like: Shape Skeletons in Human Vision Revealed by an Exceedingly Simple Measure

Chaz Firestone and Brian J. Scholl  

How are we able to recognize objects that we see in different orientations, from different viewpoints, or perhaps in different lighting? Computer models suggest we describe shapes according to their medial-axis shape skeletons. The authors investigated the presence and nature of shape skeletons in human vision by having people touch any portion of a single closed geometric shape on a touch-screen tablet. Analysis of the locations of participants’ touches showed that they conformed to the shape’s medial-axis skeleton.

Feeling the Conflict: The Crucial Role of Conflict Experience in Adaptation

Kobe Desender, Filip Van Opstal, and Eva Van den Bussche

Do subjective experiences of conflict play a role in cognitive adaptation? Participants were shown a nearly invisible prime in the shape of an arrow that preceded a target arrow. The prime and target arrows either pointed in the same direction or they pointed in opposite directions. Participants had to indicate the direction of the target arrow as quickly as possible. After each trial, participants indicated whether they had been aware of any conflict between the direction of the prime arrow and the target arrow. The adaptation effect seen after trials in which a conflict was correctly identified demonstrates the importance of experiences of conflict in cognitive adaptation.

Catching Eyes: Effects of Social and Nonsocial Cues on Attention Capture

Anne Böckler, Robrecht P. van der Wel, and Timothy N. Welsh

Direct gaze and onset of motion are both cues that capture attention, but do these cues have independent or shared influences? In the first of two studies, participants were asked to detect a target presented on one of four faces. Two of the faces showed a direct gaze and two showed an averted gaze. One face with a direct gaze and one face with an averted gaze switched gaze condition at the same time as or just prior to the presentation of the target. Although the individual effects of gaze and motion significantly influenced reaction time, there was no interaction between the two conditions, which suggests that each is processed independently of the other.